Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Meet Milwaukee’s Newest Historic Building

1883 Walker's Point building on S. 5th St. will be protected.

By - May 3rd, 2023 10:54 am
830-832 S. 5th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

830-832 S. 5th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Lamers Block building in Walker’s Point will soon receive official recognition: it’s a historic building worthy of preservation.

The two-story building at 830-832 S. 5th St. was built in 1883 in the High Victorian Italianate style. It’s located just south of W. National Ave.

Unlike many designation nominations, the Lamers Block building isn’t threatened with demolition.

It’s a “wonderfully intact” structure said Historic Preservation Commission staffer Tim Askin when the commission considered the nomination Monday. Sculptor Celine Farrell nominated the Cream City brick building after owning it for 52 years.

“It’s a beautiful building,” said Farrell, who has worked herself to restore and maintain it.

Dutch immigrant Mathias Lamers developed the 4,472-square-foot building as a rental property. He operated a shoe shop in a wood-frame building immediately to the north until his death in 1892. His sons relocated the business to the former rental property in 1901 after remodeling the first-floor facade.

“Basically this storefront is unchanged since 1901,” said Askin.

The shoe store lasted until 1929 and Farrell purchased the building in 1972. The original building next door to it that Lamers lived in was demolished in the 1970s, with Botanas now using the site as its parking lot.

Farrell, meanwhile, has maintained her property.

“It wasn’t that easy,” she said. That included working with Milwaukee Area Technical College to have replacement cornice pieces cast. In addition to artistic commissions, Farrell said she worked as a housekeeper at the Astor Hotel to support the project. “It has been extremely, extremely difficult.”

“My hat’s off to you,” said Alderman Robert Bauman.

Askin said the property is one of “the most intact buildings we’ve ever had brought before us.” He presented photos from 1904, the 1970s and today. “You can barely tell the difference.”

Askin said it’s the first building to get local protection from the long-recognized Walker’s Point Historic District. The National Park Service recognized the district, with more than 400 buildings, in 1978. The 69-page national nomination notes the building is one of the “significant structures” in the district.

National, state and local historic preservation works with a carrot-and-stick approach. The national and state designations work effectively in tandem and provide income tax credits in exchange for making historically-accurate repairs. Local designation is the stick, effectively prohibiting non-historically-sensitive alterations to the exterior.

The original architect was Andrew Elleson. The 1901 remodeling was led by O.C. Uehling, who also designed the nearby St. Stephen’s Church, the Phoenix Building in the Historic Third Ward and several other smaller Walker’s Point buildings.

The current first-floor tenant is Team Nerd Letterpress. Farrell’s Grove Gallery operates on the second floor. City assessment records show the building has two apartments within it, one of which is occupied by Farrell.

The Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, whose office is also on S. 5th St., endorsed the designation. It was new executive director Emelia Rudd‘s first appearance before the commission.

The commission unanimously approved the designation.

The Common Council must still approve the designation, a measure seen as perfunctory given the lack of opposition. The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee could review the nomination at its next meeting in three weeks.


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